|Image credit: Anna and Elena Balbusso|
The story is set in the Russia-like fantasy land of Ravka, in a small town where there is never enough food to eat and girls go missing. No one knows if it is an evil spirit, a witch, or something else entirely, but Nadya has her suspicions. One night she strays from her home and comes across a secret in the woods that she had never expected.
"The Witch of Duva" had many elements that I love in a story. I loved the element of folklore, creating a sort of culture or mythology for this fantasy world. I also really enjoyed Bardugo's lush descriptions of delicious food. When I had the chance to hear her speak at the Provo Library during the Fierce Reads tour this summer, she mentioned that she loved writing about food in Shadow and Bone, and this is clear in "The Witch of Duva" as well. Despite eating a full (and rather unhealthy) dinner tonight, my stomach is rumbling from the descriptions of meat in creamy sauces and fragrant pastries baking on the oven. The final element that really drew me in is the aspect of a dark fantasy -- it isn't horror, exactly, but there is a creepy element tinged with the supernatural that makes this story haunting and a little eerie.
Leigh Bardugo's imagery is vivid and at times disturbing throughout the story as the characters deal with the horrors of hunger and abuse. The powerful images will definitely make this story difficult to forget. In addition, the story has a startling plot twist that I couldn't see coming at all. It is always more enjoyable for me to be surprised instead of having everything figured out.
If you enjoyed Leigh Bardugo's writing and/or the fantasy world she created in Shadow and Bone, you won't want to miss "The Witch of Duva," which is available free online. In addition, if you like folklore (albeit imaginary folklore), dark fantasy, or really good food descriptions, you should definitely check this one out.